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FOOTLOOSE & FANCY-FREE

02/13/2004 10:24 AM - Anders Myrvold has crisscrossed the world in pursuit of his love of hockey.

Story and photos by Mark Newman


Anders Myrvold has been around the block a time or two, so he's able to appreciate the finer things in life.

Only 28 years old, the well-travelled defenseman has played hockey for 14 different teams in Sweden , Switzerland , Germany , Canada and the U.S. since leaving his native Norway a decade ago.

So it's not hard to imagine the mirthful Myrvold enjoying a game of tennis, a good movie, eating sushi or relaxing in an old stone cottage on the island of Brac off the coastline of Croatia .

It's true that war-torn Croatia is not likely on many lists of ideal vacation spots, but Myrvold insists the area is an overlooked paradise – not far from Dubrovnik , the seaside city that Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic tried to shell into submission back in 1991.

“What I like about the area is that it's really nice and warm all the time, and the land is this really beautiful green,” Myrvold says. “It's really this great spot with a great view and it's only two hours from Norway by plane.”

Myrvold fell in love with the land while playing for Norway in the IIHF World Championships Group B last April in Zagreb , Croatia . “All these Norwegian fans there kept saying that I should check out these islands because they were really beautiful,” he says.

Seeing the potential for a good return on his investment, he bought an old stone house, which he had workers rebuild last fall. Whether it becomes his summer getaway is anyone's guess.

He confesses that restlessness has, in his words, become part of his personality.

“I'm home for a certain amount of time in the summer and then I'm gone. That's the way it's always been," Myrvold says. “I have a good time at home, but when it gets close to training camp, I kind of lock people out. It's like I'm doing my own thing.”

Myrvold admits that he hasn't always been the most patient person while he has sought to blaze his own trail.

He was encouraged by his father, Dagfinn – his hockey coach during his early teens – to go to Sweden , where it was felt that he could polish his skills in a superior hockey environment.

Despite its northern climate, Norway has never been a hotbed for hockey talent. When Myrvold was young, Bjorn Skaare became the first Norwegian to play in the NHL and then it was for only one game with Detroit during the 1978-79 season.

Myrvold was selected by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft while playing for Farjestad of the Swedish Elite League. He played another year in Sweden before he was persuaded to join the Laval Titans of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

“I knew nothing about junior hockey. No Norwegian had ever played there, so there was nobody to ask,” Myrvold says.

The adjustment was difficult, to say the least. “It was crazy,” he says. “There was a lot of fighting, the rinks were so small and there was so much more action. It was a difficult step for me.”

He played the entire season in the Quebec league, then made the Colorado Avalanche out of training camp the next year after the Nordiques franchise moved to Denver for the 1995-96 season.

Myrvold made his NHL debut on Oct. 6, 1995 against Detroit . “I remember everything about the game,” he says. “You could feel the excitement in Colorado because they had a new team.”

Surprisingly, he says he wasn't bothered by butterflies before his first NHL appearance.

“I was more pumped than anything,” he says. “When you're 19 or 20, you're not nervous, you're stupid. You just walk around and have a good time. Whatever happens, happens.

“If you're 28 when you play your first game, then you're nervous!”

Indeed, Myrvold believes he felt the nerves a lot more as he got older. “I was way more nervous for games later in my career, because then you know what it's all about."

Myrvold played four games for Colorado in 1995-96, but spent most of the season toiling for the Avalanche's AHL affiliate in Cornwall . He was not a happy camper.

“I was really anxious,” he says. “I kept thinking, ‘I have to get a break. I have to get back up there.' I didn't know it was a good thing to play in the AHL. I didn't know the process: you need to relax, settle down, work on your game, try to be a better player.

“Instead of concentrating on what I could do down there, I was looking at the NHL all the time. It affected my play. I wanted to get traded to a different team.”

Myrvold was a “black ace” for Colorado during the Stanley Cup playoffs, which meant that he was able to witness the team's championship without appearing in any games. “It was a fun experience,” he says. “It was good to see how committed you have to be, how much it takes to win.”

He got his wish to be traded after the season when Colorado dealt Landon Wilson and him to Boston for the Bruins' first round choice in the 1998 Entry Draft. He saw action in nine more NHL games with Boston , but spent most of the 1996-97 season and all of the next in the AHL.

“I was 23 and I thought, ‘What's going on here?' so I went back to Europe ,” Myrvold says. “It really wasn't what I was looking for, but I got a good offer from Djurgarden in Sweden and I went back there to play.”

In retrospect, Myrvold realizes he might have been better off staying in North America , where his game was more ideally suited to the style of play. “I don''t know if I learned the hard way, but I learned through experience,” he says. “This is more ‘me,' to play in North America .”

He appeared in 12 NHL games for the New York Islanders during 2000-01 before playing in Switzerland for a year and then in Germany last season. Although he enjoyed those experiences, he is happy to be playing in Grand Rapids this season for the Red Wings affiliate.

“ Detroit is obviously a strong organization with a lot of history and a lot of great hockey players,” he says. “It's exciting to go to training camp where you play with the best in the world.”

For possibly the first time, he is looking at playing in the AHL as a positive experience.

“Now I'm 28 and I'm not frustrated at all because I know how things work. I know exactly,” he says. “You can't control what's going up there in the NHL. The only thing you can control is what you do down here.”

As he sees it, if you're not playing in the NHL, there's no better place to be than the AHL.

“This is a very good hockey league. There are a lot of very good hockey players who are waiting for that next step. The AHL is closer to the NHL than any other league in the world, so the chance is always there.

“You never know if it's going to happen. It could happen tomorrow. It could never happen. I don't even think about it any more. It doesn't affect my lifestyle at all.”

As long as he can pick up a tennis racket, go out for sushi or watch movies with friends, Myrvold says he isn't worried about what the future will bring. “I take one year at a time,” he says. “It's been that way for me for years, so why change now?”

Myrvold has been a calming force this season for the Griffins, both on and off the ice.

Following the promotions of Jamie Rivers and Niklas Kronwall to the Red Wings, Myrvold has played a pivotal role in the Griffins' power play unit, according to Griffins head coach Danton Cole.

“His play and growth are directly related to the success that we've been having on the power play,” Cole says. “He's continually learning and talking with Derek (King) about it.”

Being a solid contributor to the power play requires a different mindset for defensemen. “It involves a different way of thinking, a different way of moving without the puck, to get yourself in position, to get in the right lanes,” Cole says.

Fifty games into the current season, Myrvold was still looking for his first goal, but his value on the ice has never been determined by his ability to put the puck into the net. “Stats don't really concern me,” he says. “I'm thinking more about taking the puck up the ice and making a solid first pass.”

Off the ice, Myrvold has offered a helping hand to young prospects like Kronwall and Jiri Hudler.

“When you get sent down to the AHL, there are a lot of unwritten rules that you have no clue about,” he says. “You have to find a place to live after a while, open a bank account, all that small stuff that seems natural but is brand new for somebody who is here for the first time.”

For example, Myrvold points out that it's fairly common for people to ask for a Social Security number, something that European players don't have. "We have a personal number which is similar but not the same," he says. "There are lots of things you need that most people take for granted."

It's all about making his new teammates feel comfortable. He remembers what it was like to be in their shoes, so he does what he can to keep the younger guys loose. “You've got to have fun,” he says. “There are a lot of practical jokes. I think it brings the team a little closer together.”

Myrvold has a “good feeling” about the current group of Griffins.

“We have a good mix of younger and older players,” he says. “I've been on some really good teams but have never gotten the ring, so it's time to win something. This is one of the best teams in the AHL, so I think we have a good chance.”


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